New York/ Dhaka: At the Missouri College where Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis enrolled, a classmate said he often remarked that true Muslims don’t believe in violence.
That image seemed startlingly at odds with the Bangladesh native’s arrest in an FBI sting this week on charges of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in New York with what he thought was a 1,000-pound car bomb.
“I can’t imagine being more shocked about somebody doing something like this,” said Jim Dow, a 54-year-old Army veteran who rode home from class with Nafis twice a week. “I didn’t just meet this kid a couple of times. We talked quite a bit. ... And this doesn’t seem to be in character.”
Nafis’ family in Dhaka, Bangladesh, denied he could have been involved in the plot. His parents said he was incapable of such actions and came to America only to study.
Federal investigators, often accused by defence attorneys of entrapping and leading would-be terrorists along, said the 21-year-old Nafis made the first move over the summer, reaching out for accomplices and eventually contacting a government informant, who then went to federal authorities.
They said he also selected his target, drove the van loaded with dummy explosives up to the door of the bank, and tried to set off the bomb from a hotel room using a cellphone he thought had been rigged as a detonator.
During the investigation, he and the informant corresponded via Facebook and other social media, talked on the phone and met in hotel rooms, according to a law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Nafis spoke of his admiration for Osama Bin Laden, talked of writing an article about his plot for an Al Qaida-affiliated magazine.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh said its diplomats will meet with US officials to learn more about a Bangladeshi man held on charges of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve building in New York.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni says Bangladesh diplomats in the US will meet State Department officials on Saturday in Washington.
“This is a sensitive issue,” Moni told reporters. “We don’t want to speculate on it.”
New York Times reported that a California man arrested on child pornography charges has been linked to the foiled plot by Nafis.
The Times said Howard Willie Carter II was arrested after an FBI agent found 1,000 images and three video files containing child pornography on a laptop and hard drive in the trash near his San Diego apartment.
After tracing the computer back to Carter, investigators found emails on it addressed to “Yaqeen,” a name that had surfaced in the investigation of the bomb plot.
The Times said Carter had been placed under surveillance as early as August, but that officials had waited until after the Nafis arrest to arrest him.
Prosecutors say Nafis travelled to the US in January in order to carry out a terrorist attack and that he had sought out Al Qaida contacts and potential recruits